Why Antivirus Software is Important?
Computers have been a part of our day to day life and we can’t deny the fact that it made our life much simpler than ever before. The technology has now made many tasks easier for us. Like online shopping, paying bills, video calls, medical help, rental services, bookings, etc are now easily available along with many options to choose from.
Before going on further, let us explore more about antivirus software.
Why Antivirus is important?
John is a family man with a wife and two teenage kids. Working in a multinational firm he uses a company laptop for official work and has two more laptops at his home. One of them is for common use and the other is for his daughter’s educational purposes. John also has a desktop at his home which belongs to his son, who uses it mostly for gaming purposes. With four laptops and a desktop, John is using a local Wi-Fi service for internet needs.
John uses his home laptop to pay his electricity bills, phone and Wi-Fi bills, credit card bills and his wife uses the same laptop for shopping for furniture, grocery and other essentials online. His daughter uses the laptop for college projects and using social media whereas his son uses his desktop to play games and using social media too. This sum up that John and his family are largely dependent on the internet for their regular tasks.
Despite having this heavy internet laden lifestyle John is relying on a free antivirus for all the four systems in his home.
One fine day John received an email on his personal laptop that he wins a lottery of 10 million, he was ecstatic and shared the news with his wife. They read on the email which stated that they have to submit some money through their credit card as a security fee. They agreed and proceeded further. Within minutes of submitting the financial information and transferring the security fee, they received an email from the credit card company that a huge sum of money is transferred from John’s account.
This came as a surprise for John as he only transferred the security fee but how can his account become null without any transactions. He immediately called the credit card company and shared the details of what has happened with him. The credit card company consoles him and conveyed that he has now become the victim of cyber crime and in particular a phishing attack.
This comes as a shock for John who always thinks that he is safe from the cyber crooks as he has an antivirus installed on all the computer systems and laptops to remain protected from these kinds of attacks.
On the call, the credit card company executive told John that he has forwarded the matter to the concern people and also shared the best practices for using laptop and the internet, he quickly connects the call with the IT security person Rick to explain more about the antivirus and the features to look for in an antivirus. Rick begins with explaining on an antivirus,
What is Antivirus Software?
Antivirus Software is a data security utility that is installed in a computer system/PC or on a laptop with a purpose of protection from viruses, spyware, malware, rootkits, Trojans, phishing attacks, spam attack and other threats.
It protects the computer from incoming threats and seeks out, destroys and warns of possible threats to the system. New viruses are coming out all the time. It is the job of the antivirus software to keep up with the latest threats. This is achieved by daily updates of the antivirus database definitions, which counteract the latest threats to provide constant protection.
After giving the basic brief about antivirus, Rick then moves on to brief about the different types of malware and viruses that can harm the computer system. He started with Adware, it is a type of malware which displays unwanted advertisements to the user’s laptop or desktop screen and tracks the browsing behavior. Adware is usually very common in web browsers and thus to prevent these you need good antivirus software.
Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack, is a malicious attempt by hackers where they attack a targeted server/system with multiple compromised computer systems. Their main motive here is to disrupt normal traffic and provide unwanted traffic to make the system or server non-functional.
Spyware is malicious malware that enters and infects the computer system or laptop to gather information without the knowledge of the user. They usually come as a legitimate program and hides in the system while collecting and sharing information about the user with the hacker.
Keylogger is a type of spyware which keeps information of every key pressed by the user or tracks everything a user does on the infected system. Keyloggers can also track the user’s usernames and passwords for different services and share it with hackers.
A brute force attack is an attempt made by hackers to crack a password or keys by repetitive attempts. Hackers use the trial and error method here to enter in the user’s system to get the required information.
A phishing attack is an attempt by hackers to get personal or financial details from the victim. They try to lure victims by posing as legitimate persons or posting attractive offers. The most common methods used by hackers are emails, text messages, voice calls, ads, etc. There is another type of phishing which is known as Spear-phishing attack. In this type of attack, the hackers target specific victim in an attempt to get the required information.
When a computer system is attacked by a Ransomware, it blocks or restricts the user from accessing files/folders on a particular computer system. To release these files attackers demand ransom from the victim.
There comes another malicious program that is widely used to gain administrator-level access to a system of the victim is known as a rootkit. From the malware family, Trojan is one of the most harmful viruses. It misrepresents as a useful program and appears harmless but is malicious in nature. It creates a backdoor entry into the victim’s computer system which can be used for various harmful actions.
Among the Trojans, remote access Trojan (RAT) also takes the back door channel to get into the victim’s computer system and takes the administrative control over it. This slowly moves into the system and compromise the victim’s important files and documents.
Like these, there are many other malware and viruses which are evolving every day with malicious intent. It is actually impossible to calculate the number of viruses being detected by cyber security experts and antivirus combined.
John was actually surprised to know about the types of viruses and malware which can cause harm to his computer systems.
Rick reminded John that he has been a victim of a phishing attack and said that to prevent ourselves from a phishing attack, it is more important to be vigilant and antivirus software can only do limited work as protection. Most of the cyber attacks are caused due to human error and if we become self-aware about good internet practices and teach our family and friends these practices and how to identify phishing emails we can actually protect most of the cyber frauds. An antivirus is effective only to an extent in the case of phishing attacks and largely depends on users. Rick continued with the steps one must take to prevent themselves from phishing attempts.
The first and most important thing here is to choose a good antivirus solution for your computer system or laptops. A user should be very cautious while opening any unknown email, attachments, websites or links. Spam mails are very common and users should never reply to any spam mails which ask them about financial details, making an update to the account and sharing any passwords. Spam mails also contain many malicious links in the email body or in the subject line which can directly lead the user to a harmful website and then ask the user to fill in confidential account information.
Also, it is important for the users not to copy these links and paste it in the web browser. Also, hover a cursor over the link which can give you the full name of the website. The first thing is to check the https sign, ‘s’ indicates that the website is secured. But in case you have any doubts about the website just avoid using the link and contact the service provider if it’s important. Hackers are getting smarter and they are good at making the replica websites of the original one which can trick users into thinking it as an original one to get the financial or personal details. Among other things, a user should never send in confidential information through email to anyone.
While these emails look very attractive and sometimes present offers that are hard to resist or refuse but in reality they are just the fraudulent emails that seek information from the users. Never respond to these spam emails, calls or even text messages.
Rick now moves on to explaining the features to look for while choosing an antivirus for home or office use. He started with,
Rick told John that, the threat landscape is increasing every day and thus it also needs the best of the technology to tackle these growing threats. Cloud protection technology used by antivirus solutions is the latest addition in this space to tackle threats. The cloud protection gives security for your systems 24×7 and it is also very light on system resources.
Rick further highlighted that an antivirus with cloud technology provides constant updates automatically as soon as any threat is detected on any of the computers with the antivirus activated. This new threat is added to the database and the newly updated database with the latest threat detected is sent to every connected user immediately. This ensures instant security for computer systems and laptops.
John replies in affirmation but questions, so this means my system will be connected to the other computers? To which Rick replies, no, your system and antivirus won’t share any of your data with other peoples using the same antivirus but all the scanning processes will take place in a cloud server which will ultimately reduce the load on your system and speed it up to provide high performance.
Rick again continued to explain the features of the antivirus,
The most important purpose of an antivirus is to provide protection against viruses, Trojans, Spywares, Malwares, Zero-day attacks and other software which are designed to cause harm to your computer. As hackers are getting smarter and they are finding new ways to get money or another type of benefit. Security researchers are discovering new malware which is being surfaced on a daily basis. Thus it requires a strong and advanced antivirus to thwart these old, new and emerging threats. Rick then explains the various types of malware and their harmful effects on the user’s system.
He tells John about other features of antivirus software which should include modules such as anti-Trojan, anti-spyware, anti-worm and anti-rootkit protection. The virus and other threats are actually innumerable and it is very important to have antivirus which can not only deal with the existing or old threats but be an advanced one to tackle the new threats.
The anti-Trojan mechanism does a thorough check on all the programs installed on the system and then identifies and isolates all the software which may be performing any covert activity inside the computer system. The anti-spyware feature of any antivirus prevents the computer system from spyware which can steal files and record all the activity secretly. A good antivirus protects the system from this harmful spyware with rigorous checks and filters out infected files or software.
The anti-worm feature of antivirus provides protection against harmful worm which duplicates the files and leads to system slowdown by filling hard drive space. This feature of antivirus filters out the harmful files before any damage can be done. The anti-rootkit feature of antivirus helps in detecting the presence of rootkit in the system and hence protecting important files in the computer system from getting infected. The quick action antivirus will prevent the installation of rootkit and provide instant protection from it.
The antivirus should continuously monitor every file and application present as well as running on the computer system. Antivirus should also include online protection, which is presently the major source of virus intrusion into the computer system.
While discussing these Rick said that we should not forget the other potential entry points for the virus or malware. A malicious pen drive, the hard drive can make an entry for viruses through external ports. Antivirus should have protection from these external devices also. Antivirus should detect and scan the external device as soon as it is inserted in the computer system. A more secure method to prevent the entry of malware from external ports is to fully block the external ports. Some antivirus provides this extra feature of port blocking and gives access to admin only to whitelist or blacklist the external drive.
Talking about online protection Rick said that this is a very important part for anyone who uses the internet and especially for those who prefer to send and receive payments over the internet. Safe internet browsing should be an essential feature in any antivirus. A safe browsing option should be an integral part of antivirus software. There are many activities we perform daily on the internet and this is well known to the hackers also. They always look for trapping users to fetch personal details, credit card information and even transmit harmful malware into the computer system or laptop. Antivirus plays the most important part in protection against online threats.
John said yes I do a lot of things over the internet like I pay all my bills over the internet be it credit card bill, telephone bill, Wi-Fi bill, electricity bill, various taxes and I even transfer money through internet banking. We order our grocery online & book our travel tickets too and all the payments are made online only. Even my wife does a lot of internet shopping from various websites and makes online payment always.
Also, everyone in our family has social media accounts which we use on a daily basis. The multiple accounts have many of our private details like phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, photos, videos and personal chats. John exclaimed that he can’t even imagine his life without internet access and his laptop.
To which Rick replied, yes, with the ease of technology and the internet we really can’t imagine a day without web access. This also raises concern that how aware we are about the security prospects of using the web as well as how much we share on the internet. We unknowingly reveal a lot of personal information or the details which could impair our privacy. An antivirus is the first thing that should be on your laptop or personal computer while accessing the internet. Being aware of safe internet practices will always protect a person from getting hacked or being a victim of cyber crime. Meanwhile, good antivirus software constantly monitors the web and protects users from accessing fake or malicious websites along with restricting the entry of malware into the computer system through other channels.
Social Media is another big security threat here, we mostly use social media not only to connect with the people but to share our moments, thoughts and other things. But we must be aware that even hackers now try to lure their victims with the help of social media. They can connect with you and share a malicious link in the message. Clicking on the link can compromise your social media account and in the worse case your computer system. They also use this technique to push malware into the computer system. Protection on social media is entirely depending on the user. A user should not share more than what is required and make the profile private, Reading the privacy policies and applying privacy filters is the best way to protect yourself on social media. Meanwhile, antivirus software can only help to protect your system if you accidentally click any malicious link.
Rick now moves forward to explain additional features for an antivirus,
As John already told Rick about his children and their requirement for the laptop at home, Rick suggested using a parental control tool that comes along with the antivirus. As children are very vulnerable to internet bullying and abuse, it is always good to stay informed. The internet is filled with good and mostly bad content. Most of the websites don’t separate their visitors with any kind of age filters and this can also lead kids to access the content which is inappropriate to them. Antivirus with parental control tool lets the user block the websites by name, keywords, and links so that the kids won’t get exposed to inappropriate content. Also, antivirus with activity monitoring lets the user monitor every activity a child does on the laptop. From file sharing to website access to chats, activity monitoring features details the time spend on the website, internet or on any other activity can be accessed by this feature of antivirus.
John really liked the idea of having an activity monitoring feature in antivirus as now he feels that he should also take extra care while kids are using the internet. Rick continues,
There are many other features antivirus software has to provide all-round protection for the computer system, like, inbuilt data recovery option, laptop location, activity monitoring, parental tool, etc. These features are always optional and depend on the user’s requirement but for full protection of the computer system, these additional features are always recommended.
Most people complain about the performance of the system after installing antivirus. The system slowdown, application not responding and system hang are some of the common problems people face but this has a lot to do with the system being crammed by cache and temporary files. Antivirus does provide the option to clean up the system as an additional feature to let the user’s system run smoothly and boost performance.
Rick advised that a user must look for all these important features before making the decision to purchase a good antivirus for their computer system or laptops. These features of antivirus are not only important for personal use laptops but are equally relevant for enterprises with computer systems or laptops.
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